Ever since Odell Brewing Company entered the MN market give or take five years ago, I have been a huge fan of their craft beer. They have such an incredible portfolio of both year-round and seasonal beers. It isn’t just the beer that continues to keep me coming back to a well-established brand when there are so many new choices popping up every day. Odell puts an astounding amount of thought into everything that they do. From the label art to the styles they brew, everything is a calculated move with the pure intention of making their beers quality representations of a brand that everyone can enjoy. It was for this reason that I will make the Odell Brewing Company a place I visit when I am in Fort Collins. However, because of the generosity of a friend of mine, I was able to truly understand what makes Odell the class of the industry.
A friend of mine who has some incredible connections in the craft beer world was able to reach out to some of his friends at Odell and arrange a tour for me. I have to be honest and say that I had no idea what to expect. I figured maybe that meant a smaller group of people for a more intimate tour. What I realized when I got to the brewery was that it was going to just be me and Adam, one of the people who works at Odell in the sales department.
The tour started at the bar where Adam asked if there was anything I would like to try. I was like a kid in a candy store! I didn’t want to go crazy so I only tried ones that were taproom exclusives or newly released. Of the ones that I had never heard of before, there was a Light Lager, Mexican Lager, a Witbier, a Gose and the much anticipated collaboration with Verboten, the Ignorance Is Bliss barrel-aged stout at 16%. We chatted a little bit about the taproom and artwork as I worked on my samples. I asked him how the Ignorance Is Bliss Release Party went the day before and he said that there were a lot of people really enjoying themselves and raving about how impressive the beer was. Ignorance Is Bliss is one of the biggest beers Odell has ever done. As I was tasting it, I remember thinking that it had such a nice smoothness to it. You definitely tasted the whisky and nice caramelized sugars. However, the booziness wasn’t as harsh as I was anticipating. This is one of the better barrel aged beers I have ever tasted and I really hope that they decide to do it again on a larger scale so that they can bottle it and have it available in all of their markets. I was incredibly impressed with the It’s Beer Light Lager. It had a ton of flavor along with a significant hop aroma. Their Mexican Lager was incredibly drinkable and would make the perfect beer to go along with fajitas on the grill. The Brombeere Blackberry Gose had a great fruit presence that was balanced out with a little tartness. It was incredibly refreshing and perfect for the day which was mid 80s and sunny. The Witbier was refreshing with a nice yeast aroma to it. As soon as I was done with my tasters, Adam asked which one I wanted in a pint to have on the tour. I selected the Witbier and we were on our way.
It is easy to see why Adam does well at Odell;his bubbly personality and vast knowledge of the company and craft beer make him easy to talk to. He is engaging and bright and had so much to tell me as we went around the brewery. We went out on the staff patio, into the brewhouse where they have gigantic copper kettles from Germany. Adam told me a hilarious story that speaks to the prolific nature of American craft brewers. When the Germans were here training in the brewers at Odell on how it all worked, they saw the brewer dumping in the hop additions. They ran out into the brewhouse screaming to stop and that they were using way too many hops and that it will ruin the beer. I find this so funny on two levels. One, because the German mindset is still so traditional when it comes to how to use ingredients. Two, because there is a better chance of me slam dunking a basketball than Odell ruining a beer. Adam pointed out just how many places in the brewery contain the Odell logo outline and I started to notice it everywhere. The way they have incorporated the logo everywhere without it being gaudy or over the top is a true testament to their understanding of aesthetics and artistry.
We then moved onto the space where they are currently aging beer in barrels. I noticed liquid pooling on the floor and Adam explained that sometimes barrels will have space or not be perfectly tight, so some liquid will leak out during the aging process. I am not going to lie, there was part of me that wanted to go stick my finger in the beer puddles and give it a taste, but I didn’t because my goal was to complete the tour and not get thrown out. The barrels are stacked amidst a ton of fermenters which contain the delicious Odell goodness. On the wall is a dry erase board with all sorts of dates and codes on there to help brewers keep track of what beer is in what fermenter and how far along in the process it is. There are so many details that go into this place and it is all magnified because of how huge Odell’s production is. I got to see one of the pieces of equipment that helps Odell maintain the quality in their beer and that is the centrifuge. Basically, this machine runs beer through it and the unwanted proteins and things that will negatively affect the clarity of the beer drop out of it.
From there, it was into the hops storage cooler. I know for a fact that words will not be able to do justice the aromatic nirvana I experienced when I stepped into this room. Imagine every wonderful olfactory pleasure of walking through a field of fresh cut grass and that is about 10% of the thrill my nose was having. I got to take a huge whiff of loose flaked hop leaves in a crate and it was magical. The next place we went was where they keep all the finished kegs and packaged beer that is ready to be sent off. From floor to ceiling, this room is filled with craft beer. This is where I would want to hide out during a severe storm.
Adam then brought me to a room that was really big and completely empty. I thought that perhaps this is where the staff dodgeball games take place, but in fact, this was the space that would house the new canning line. Like many other breweries in Colorado, Odell will begin to can their beers. They are getting their canning line from a company over in Germany and I can only imagine that it will be a top-of-the-line machine because that is just how Odell rolls. I also learned that everyone who works for Odell is encouraged to learn how beer is made. The philosophy is that if you are selling, bottling or serving craft beer, you should know how it is made. This makes a lot of sense to me and further cements my understanding of why Odell has thrived over the years.
One of the last things I got to see on the tour was unbelievably cool. After seeing the office space where most of the workers have their desks, Adam brought me into another room that showed the very tops of huge tanks. He led me across the room and opened a door to the outside. I soon realized that we were outside and going up a stairway to the very top of the brewery. I have a very acute fear of heights. So, there was the challenge of keeping my cool despite the fact that being up this high was more than slightly terrifying. However, once I got to the top of the stairs and peered out over Fort Collins, my breath was taken away by the sheer beauty of this place. Adam pointed to a field filled with solar panels that helped power the brewery. I had a perfect view of the mountains that surrounded the town and the sun was shining. I have been lucky in my lifetime to see the Eiffel Tower, the Empire State Building, the Coliseum in Rome and Ernest Goes to Camp (exactly 14 times). In all honesty, this view atop of the Odell Brewery might have been the most beautiful site I have ever seen. We stayed up there for a few minutes, long enough to soak in the beauty and immensity of the amazing view, but not too long because it never sunk in that I was up really really high. From this vantage point, you can also see the tops of many tanks of beer and you realize how colossal this place is and how much craft beer they can make. The moment eventually came where
we had to go back inside and conclude the tour. Adam could not have been more gracious in taking the time and care to make sure that I got to see everything I wanted to see. He answered questions and made me feel like a VIP, even though I am just a craft beer geek who happens to write for a small blog. Odell makes incredible beer, but it the people working there that make it special. Craft beer is about bringing people together. Odell provides the perfect backdrop for that. The staff at Odell truly understand what it is to make someone feel welcome. I decided that the sun was out and the best way to process this amazing craft beer experience was with another superb Odell beer on the patio. Prost!